The day had started out as many did around 221b Baker Street. John had awoken early and made his way to the kitchen for a light breakfast. Once finished his toast and tea he went over to his favourite window to see if there was much happening out in the street. His light hair and oatmeal knit jumper lit up in the early morning sun as he stood silently, watching a few people run for buses and taxis whilst clutching tan takeaway cups. The weather looked decent and more importantly there were no nondescript black cars waiting for him by the side of the road. He smiled and sat back at the table ready to finish off his newspaper in peace.
Surprisingly though, the flat had been fairly quiet for the last few days. It had been around a week since they'd had a case from either Lestrade or Mycroft. Every couple of days John had worked down at the clinic and it was up to him to go out and get the groceries and anything else they had needed, he was the only one that seemed to be going through any of the food lately.
For the first few days Sherlock had run with his 'Bored' act. John had previously made sure to get a locked box for his army issue handgun. It didn't stop Sherlock getting to it if he really wanted to but sometimes out-of-sight out-of-mind helped. They didn't need any more holes in the wall.
After a few days of experiments, whining, insults and sulking, Sherlock had now spent the last couple of days in bed. On the first day of this John thought that the man might have actually gone out of the house and he just hadn't heard him. But once it got to 5pm though it was clear he hadn't left, so he knocked on his flatmates door with concern.
"Uh, Sherlock? You in?" he called out clearly, using a softer tone in case he was ill.
There was a pause followed by a darkly drawn out "Obviously". John rolled his eyes before "Come on in if you must" was added. He took that as an invitation.
As the doctor entered he realised how stale the room smelt. The curtains were pulled tightly shut so that most light was blocked, a little spilt out around the top and bottom which lit his way as he slowly moved over to the left of the bed. The consulting detective was lying on top of his covers staring at the ceiling in the same grey pyjamas he'd been in for the last six days.
"Do you feel sick?" John queried. It tugged at his chest to see his friend in this way.
"…no" he sighed, as though it took him all the effort in the world to answer.
"Are you going to come and watch some crap telly with me?"
"…no" he repeated in the same way again.
'Right' he thought. "I'm going to make beans on toast for tea, want some?"
The brunet didn't even bother replying this time, just rolled his head to the side to fix John with a heavy lidded stare. His usually bright eyes seemed uncharacteristically dull, the familiar light down a number of watts. John didn't need his years of medical practice to know a depressive episode when he saw it. He gave a tight, sympathetic grimace.
"Ok, fine. Can I do anything for you?" he offered, kindly.
"Go and kill a few people. Make it a puzzle"
John smirked at the ground near his own feet, times like this he wished he had his walking stick to play around with for something to do with his hands and feet. "I don't think that's going to be possible". His patience at such antisocial comments was wearing extremely thin.
"You've killed before"
The ex-army man's eyes flicked up dangerously. "Sherlock" he snapped. The detective had no idea about appropriate.
A heavy arm rose up and then fell down solidly, waving the idea away. "Oh, alright. Don't then". He gazed over at this bedside table where his phone sat, idle. "No word from Lestrade. I bet he's sitting there at his desk laughing at me". At this he slowly puffed up his pillow, movement seemed to be taking too much effort. "I think I'm going to rest again. You can let yourself out".
That was two days ago. Since then Sherlock had spent some small amounts of time out on the couch, walking around and catching up on the newspapers. He'd even had a little toast and jam at John's insistence. The night before he didn't go to bed, just stayed in the main room. John didn't know if he'd slept or not, just that the violin had remained untouched for a week. Not sleeping in his room meant that things were returning back to normal though, it seemed.
Back to the current day, while John was still reading the newspaper when Sherlock came out and said he was feeling quite a bit better but he wasn't going to go out. John felt he looked fresher, more upbeat. That spark was coming back and he was making small observations about things the doctor had moved around while it had just been him using most of the flat. He also made a few deductions about what had happened while he'd been 'away'. All of that said a great step towards recovery to the doctor.
Mid-afternoon John realised that they were out of milk again and went to tell Sherlock he was heading out to the shops. His flatmate, now feeling quite a bit perkier, made a whole list of demands for items that he wanted. Bi-carb soda, a handheld mixer and ammonia were top priority. John was happy that he was feeling better but was annoyed that he was once again running around doing everything on behalf of the two of them. It was going to be a lot to carry back in the taxi by himself at this rate.
Once he returned he walked up the stairs, struggling with the number of bags he was carrying. As he neared the top he watched as his roommate swept past making a small attempt at tying up his blue silk dressing gown over his pyjamas. One of the bags slipped as it began to tear.
"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks! Don't mind me!" he snapped bitterly as Sherlock sped through the door into the main room without a second glance. Seeing red, John kept going as he walked through the kitchen door and placed the bags on the table. "No, no. You're right. I went out and bought them, I used my money, then I'll end up doing the cooking, therefore I shouldn't get any help carrying this! Silly me! I-".
He stopped short once he entered the living room and realised Mycroft was leaning importantly on the mantle piece, umbrella hanging on this forearm as he held a silver pocket watch open in his hand. He was in a bespoke, grey three piece suit. Both brothers were staring at him as the silence stretched.
"Uh…sorry, I didn't realise we had company. Mycroft…hi"
"Hello, Doctor Watson" he beamed, it didn't reach his eyes. "Back from some grocery shopping, I see?" he enquired politely.
Sherlock made a noise almost like a growl as he pulled his blue gown around him moodily and sloppily sat on the back of their long couch, feet on the seats. "Oh, get on with it, Mycroft" he snapped as he rubbed at his hair and face, leaving his dark curls sitting at different angles. He hadn't washed in a week and his hair was stringy and thick with grease.
A small smirk pulled up the right side of the elder Holmes' lip. He gave John eye contact as he closed his watch with a click, placed it carefully in his pocket and turned to face his brother, now leaning on his umbrella with both hands neatly in front of him. "Certainly, I-"
"-you said you had news. I was in bed you know. Is it a case?" he asked, not quite able to keep the longing from his voice.
"No. No it isn't". Sherlock's body slouched a little but he continued to listen. "No, I've had a call from Aunt Erica-" the younger man scoffed but was cut off "-Stephen's dead, Sherlock. Happened Tuesday. Heart gave out, it seems. Awfully sorry".
John watched as Sherlock straightened and went completely silent, he had an odd blank look on his face. He saw Mycroft out of the corner of his eye and looked over to him.
"Stephen was our uncle" he explained kindly. "Unmarried, in his 70's, a bachelor who never quite learned how to look after himself properly". He watched Sherlock as John kept his eyes on Mycroft. "He and my brother got on famously when we were children. The other adults never really approved of him. Moved to Greece when I was fourteen, Sherlock seven, haven't seen him since".
John didn't know quite what to say. He didn't know how this news would affect his already unstable friend. "Oh. I'm…I'm sorry to hear that, I-". He turned to look at his roommate but only saw the tail end of his dressing gown as it slipped out the door. The doctor stepped forward to follow him but the other Holmes moved forward and placed his umbrella over his chest lightly. He halted immediately.
"Give him a minute" he instructed knowingly with a nod.
"-he's fine". At this he gracefully lowered himself into Sherlock's leather chair. "In fact, he'll be back here in a minute or two. Perhaps put the milk, butter and chocolate ice cream in the fridge while we're waiting? Wouldn't want it to spoil"
John looked over and noticed that you couldn't see these items in the bags and at the angle they were at you wouldn't have been able to at any point. The older Holmes just gave him a knowing twist of his lips. John sighed and moved into the kitchen, he just didn't know how those two did it.
Once he returned Mycroft continued. "Stephen was the only family member dear Sherlock took a liking to". He seemed bitter at this, perhaps it stung a little. "Apart from Mummy, of course. As a child they would talk at our family events. Our mother tried to keep him away from us as much as possible understandably, he wasn't the best role model. He lived alone, was an alcoholic and prone to bouts of mental…unrest. He was so unlike our father, they were brothers, you see. Would think nothing of staying in bed until" he looked at his watch again "after 3pm". John realised what he was suggesting as Sherlock swept back into the room, still in his bed clothes as he was before. He sat quickly at the couch with his laptop on the coffee table. John noticed that he looked as he normally did when posed with a puzzle. For once he had thought that the great Sherlock Holmes had shown some emotion, it seems he was merely retrieving his laptop.
"There's no obituary in any of the papers" he stated, indifferently.
"Yes, no one put one in. There will be a funeral notice. Which, coincidently, is why I'm here". He took a pause. "It's in two days time near the manor, it's already organised that we're staying with Father. The service starts at 1pm, a car will pick you up at 10am on the day, please to try to be presentable by then".
The younger Holmes gave no indication that he'd heard. His eyes shot up. "How do you know it was his heart? Autopsy already conducted? Was he living alone? How long until someone found him?" he then spoke to himself "Was he found? Yes, he was found, he didn't call for an ambulance, people were there"
"This is no murder investigation, Sherlock" Mycroft assured gently in his usual patronising tone "simply me informing you of the time and location of the service. He would have wanted you to be there"
"But it all depends on whether he was found at his home"
"He was in hospital at the time"
"He was already there? Good. Is that good? Why is it good?"
"He has been in hospice care for the last few years" Mycroft explained, calmly. "The stroke five years ago made sure of that"
The consulting detective's face crumpled in confused. "Stroke? What stroke? I wasn't told about a stroke". His gaze flicked across to John as though he may have the answer. The doctor just shrugged his shoulders.
Mycroft looked down at his lap and played with the chain on his vest pocket trying to find the right words. "Think back to where you were at five years ago and that may go some way to explaining why you weren't told".
Crash. The coffee table was kicked, it skidded across the floorboards into the maroon patterned rug. John rushed forward and was able to half catch the computer after only one corner of it hit the ground. There was a small scratch but it still seemed to be working. He placed in on their shared table they often used as a desk, wondering why Sherlock had lashed out so suddenly with no thought to the wellbeing of his prized information provider.
"You knew?" he accused, the doctor had never heard him sound so personally offended by something.
"Of course I did" the elder Holmes spoke more loudly "but not straight away. Really, you know how he looked after himself. Could never cook anything more complicated than tinned soup and microwave meals, drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney. It is an amazement to us all that he survived to the age he did". The younger man tried to interrupt again, this time Mycroft's voice sounded final. "An old, ill man's heart stopped beating, Sherlock, due to his age and lifestyle. It is no mystery. I'll see you at the funeral"
"I'm not going" the younger one snapped childishly.
Only now did Mycroft let his frustration show. "Now, really-"
"-no! The rest of the family will be there. I don't want to see them, they'll just…ask me questions, look at me". He shuddered a little at that.
Mycroft stood near the door and made sure he had everything with him. "Father will be there, they all will. Do try to change out of your night clothes before then. I'd say a bath would do you good too. Isn't that right, John?"
John thought it was right to ask a few questions but he didn't appreciate being used like this to gang up on his colleague. "How long will Sherlock be away for?"
"Oh, just the one night. You'll have to move your Friday shift"
"We'll only be overnight but you may want to move your shift, it's a bit of a drive back to London and you don't want to be worrying about missing your locum work"
"I'm going too?" he seemed to realise something wasn't right. "Hang on, you know when my shifts are? They change, how do you-"
"-of course you're going" Sherlock muttered in frustration looking angrily at the bull skull with headphones on the wall.
"But how do you know my-"
"-that's the spirit!" Mycroft encouraged to his brother with his fake glee, not adding any comment about his knowledge of John's work hours. "Stephen would have wanted you there"
"Don't" the consulting detective replied, sharply.
"I'll see you there, John" the elder Holmes bid in farewell and turned down towards the stairs with a twirl of his umbrella.
"Yep…bye" the blond replied quietly, still wondering if he had mentioned his Friday shift to anyone yet. But come to think of it he'd only accepted it on the way to the supermarket earlier. There was no way, odd.
"Idiot" the consulting detective hissed once they heard the front door close. He slid around and lay on his back on the couch, arms folded tightly across his chest.
"Are you ok?". John could see this turning bad quickly.
"Yes, why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, you just found out one of your loved ones has passed away"
"He was a family member, John"
"That's a loved one"
"Is it?" he questioned pulling his silk dressing gown tighter around him. "I hope Lestrade calls with some work soon, some real work. It's been seven and half days since we had anything from him. I've done all the experiments I want to for now".
John went and looked out the window, trying to plan out his changed week. "I'm going to have to call Sarah, let her know I'm away for those two days" he said out loud, more to himself.
"Do whatever you want"
His head snapped over to the couch. "I don't think this is one of those times where I do what I want"
Sherlock grumbled then turned to face the wall, frowning like an insolent child.
"Right. Well I'll take that as a thank you then". Silence. "You're welcome" he added loudly as he went to put the rest of the groceries away. Oh well, you couldn't call this week boring now.